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Blog Feature

By: AAST Editor on May 24th, 2018

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AAST Participates in the AWAKE Sleep Apnea Initiative

On June 8, patient voices in the discussion on sleep apnea will be heard, as the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) hosts the AWAKE Sleep Apnea initiative in Hyattsville, Maryland. This important meeting is focused on the full range of treatment approaches used by people with sleep apnea. The goal is to bring patient voices to the FDA to inform research and the development of more treatment options for sleep apnea.

This will be the first meeting identified as a patient-focused medical product development (PFMPD). AAST has been invited to participate, providing the perspective of sleep technologists who are patient advocates who work hand-in-hand with and educate patients.

Theresa Shumard Headshot-1

We caught up with Theresa Shumard, advocate for patients and community leader with ASAA, to discuss the importance of this meeting. Theresa is a former member of the AAST Board of Directors, the former AAST Legislative Action Committee Chair, and longtime editor of A2Zzz.

Please describe the importance of this program overall and how it will impact sleep technologists.

Shumard: The American Sleep Apnea Association will host this important meeting focused on the full range of treatment approaches used by people with sleep apnea, including medications, oral appliances, surgical procedures and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), the centerpiece of sleep apnea care.

Results from the initiative and the survey will likely show the difficult journeys sleep apnea patients face.

The June 8 meeting will provide the FDA the opportunity to hear directly from patients, patient caretakers and patient advocates about their experiences with sleep apnea and its treatments. Discussion focused on two key topics: 1) disease symptoms and daily impacts that matter most to patients, and 2) patients’ perspectives on current approaches to treating sleep apnea.

For more than 40 years, sleep technologists have been on the front line providing patient education and tackling problems some patients face regarding therapy. Sleep technologists are often the first people in front of the sleep apnea patient regarding treatment. They are often the strongest patient advocates and do not take their roles as caregivers lightly.

I have had the extreme pleasure of working with sleep technologists for more than half of my life and see no other group more fitting for this educational role to achieve optimal adherence to therapy and sleep wellness. Now with a focus on patient education and implementation of the Clinical Sleep Health Educator (CCSH) credential, even more patients can be helped because subsequent visits for more education can rectify problems early in the treatment phase.

Why does AASA feel that this is an important program in which to participate, and what can members expect as a result?

Shumard: Sharing this information with the FDA is a crucial way to help policymakers make informed decisions based on patients’ needs, especially as new medical products (medications, devices, diagnostics, etc.) are developed and evaluated for safety and effectiveness.

AAST members can anticipate an increase in patient education efforts.

Click here for more information on this important event and for details on how to join in-person.